Oftentimes I eat food that's bad for me because it tends to be really convenient to eat. For example, chips, cookies, and fast food cheeseburgers are all instant gratification items.
Now, I'm not making excuses for why I eat like this. I could dedicate an hour and a half every Sunday to buying some healthy food and filling up my tupperware with healthy, prepped meals for the week. Hell, I could even pick up multiple $5 rotisserie chickens from Costco and be a very healthy man.
However, I fluctuate. I'll usually eat healthy throughout the day and then gorge on some cookies or ice cream after a workout because I've convinced myself I earned it. Bad Mustafa.
But this health psychologist has a novel invention that might retrain our eating habits: vending machines that punish unhealthy eating decisions.
Brad Appelhans knows that people who have poor eating habits will eventually shorten their life expectancy down the road, but that "down the road" reality is what fools us into thinking that fate is a foregone conclusion. In reality, we have plenty of time to "mend our ways," so to speak.
He noticed at work that most people don't use the automated door function because there's a sign notifying people there's "a 3 second delay."
So, he thought if he applied that same logic to humans, by making unhealthy food choices less instant, that we'd get fed up and opt for the healthier option every single time.
So Appelhans and his team created the Delays to Influence Snack Choice (DISC) vending machine.
The machine vends healthy snacks instantly and delays junk food by 25 seconds.
Appelhans saw a 3-5% increase in healthy snack choices after putting the vending machines in heavily trafficked areas in Chicago.
Which may not sound like a huge increase, but when you consider that we're dealing with over 1.3 million vending machines in the United States that pull in a whopping $4 billion in sales where the top snack choices are empty-calorie packing garbage, well, you're looking at some significant numbers.
Vending machine owners will be happy to know that the study revealed the number of sales weren't affected during the study, either. People bought their snacks at the usual frequency.
So if people are buying at the same frequency and more people are opting for healthier snacks, even if it's only 5% of them, then what do we have to lose, except a few pounds?